Google teams up with Fiat Chrysler for self-driving minivan
The tech giant will redesign 100 Chrysler Pacifica hybrids and put them on the road by the end of 2016.
For the first time, Google will collaborate with a traditional carmaker to develop self-driving vehicles. The tech company announced a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in a blog post on Tuesday. By the end of the year, Google plans to have integrated driverless car technology into 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans. Google and Fiat Chrysler engineers will work together in Michigan where FCA is based.
Through the cooperation, which will be solely for testing purposes at first, Google will more than double its testing fleet of 70 self-driving cars. The fleet is currently made up of retrofitted Lexus RX450h sports utility vehicles and the fully autonomous pod-like cars that Google has developed. “The minivan design also gives us an opportunity to test a larger vehicle that could be easier for passengers to enter and exit, particularly with features like hands-free sliding doors,” Google stated. According to Fortune, this could be a hint at one of Google’s long-stated goals: to serve people with disabilities who are unable to drive.
For Fiat Chrysler, the deal with Google comes as a “critical win”, as the Wall Street Journal puts it. The company had so far been viewed as lagging behind in self-driving technology. Many other big OEMs like Volvo, Nissan, BMW, General Motors or Ford are heavily investing in autonomous vehicle technology. But at the same time they have been hesitant to cooperate with Google – likely fearing that the ambitious Silicon Valley giant could degrade them to component suppliers at some point.